Nerds, Assemble!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


   Superheroes rock. I feel like it's okay for me to be fairly unambiguous in my support of them. You know what else rocks? The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game, that's what. I stumbled across this little gem while I was working at home on my own free time, and, knowing that I had just the occasion coming up, preordered it. The game showed up two days before my good friend's birthday, and a couple pre-release posts I had read had worked me into a certain state of anxiety. You see, I had agreed to introduce this game and allow my friend and our significant others the opportunity to be directly involved in a skrull invasion of Earth, and not all of the early reviews were entirely complementary. However, I had chosen my course and was determined to see it through, so when the game arrived on my doorstep I tore through the packaging with trembling hands and began to read.

   The first thing I had get over was the fact that the game uses the Cortex system, something altogether alien and unfamiliar to my D20 programmed brain. The system revolves around this idea that you have a range of dice from a 4-sided (d4) up to a 12-sided (d12). Each die represents one of your abilities or talents and you can select some of them from a given roll to represent accuracy, effectiveness, etc. Suffice it to say that while this system is a little daunting to try and convey to another human being without specific hand gestures and physical dice present to illustrate the function you're trying to convey, in practice the Cortex system is acutally very simple and intuitive, and lends itself to the comic book feel of the game very nicely.

   The other thing I discovered was that the posters leaving negative commentary were missing some very important toolsets not included in the game. Wander on over to and you'll discover a Random Datafile Generator and a blank datafile spreadsheet. You need these. You want these. The core book itself is great for covering the functions of the game, and gives you everything you need to spend a night as Storm or Captain America, or putting the moves on Mary-Jane in your best blue and red spandex, but the rules are a little fuzzier when it comes to creating your very own super-hero. That's where the Random Datafile Generator comes into play. This fills in all the blanks on character creation and allows you to create your very own hero, ready to throw down with the Hulk, out-angst Cyclops, or whatever your preference may be.

   Saturday evening rolled around and we all jumped in for the real test, playing an actual game. I was the Watcher, in charge of game mediation, storytelling, and controlling the doom dice, a dice pool representing the forces of fate arrayed against my intrepid heroes. Ready to charge into the fray were: The Occultist (trademark pending), wielder of dark mystical forces and wearer of the accursed Nephilim Armor; Roulette (trademark pending), a genetically augmented human trained by the military and occasionally possessed by the ghost of a child killed in the same military program; and Gremlin, a compueter programmer empowered by experimental nanites allowing her to control almost any technology she comes in contact with. We had a blast. The party was arrested, fought and befriended super-powered convicts, and ultimately slew a gravity controlling super-villain in order to prevent him from crashing an aerial prison colony into the Whitehouse. Just reading that last sentence makes goosebumps tingle over my skin as I remember the encounter.

   To sum up here, you want to play this. At $19.99 for the core book, this is a more than worthwhile investment for any interested gaming group. The biggest problem we had was realizing that there just isn't enough time in our normal gaming schedule to work in a regular occurrence of this game and still pretend to have a real life. If you need a quick switch from your usual tabletop game, this is for you. And for all the True Believers out there who know deep down inside that every nerd deserves his own smokin' hot redhead girlfriend to patch him back together when the world gets too rough (or if you happen to be that smokin' hot girlfriend, redhead or not), this is totally for you.